A social media post containing an open letter allegedly written by Dr. Devi Shetty opposing a proposed 5% service tax on healthcare in the recent budget is being shared on social media. Dr. Shetty called this tax a ‘Misery tax.’ This letter also calls out to people to assemble at the Governor’s house of each state at 11 am on 12 March with a petition to roll back the tax. Let’s know the details behind this letter in this fact-checking article.
Claim: In an open letter written by Dr. Devi Shetty, he called on people to gather at the Governor’s residence of each state with a petition to oppose the recently proposed health care service tax which he labels as a ‘Misery tax’.
Fact: This letter was indeed written by Dr. Devi Shetty, but in 2011 when the then Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee proposed to levy a service tax of 5% on the healthcare services provided by hospitals with 25 or more beds with central air conditioning facilities. This letter and the opposition to this bill from various healthcare professionals led the government to withdraw the proposed provision. The 2023-24 union budget also does not contain any provision for service tax on healthcare. Hence the claim made in the post is Misleading
We performed a reverse image search on the image to learn more details about the letter. This search led us to two blog posts (here and here) from March 2011, which contained the same letter. One of those two posts mentions that Dr. Devi Shetty issued this open letter to the people of India urging them to ‘observe 12th March 2011 as ‘Misery Day’. The letter also opposed the Union Government’s proposal to impose an additional 5 per cent service tax on healthcare provided by the private hospitals. He called this new proposed tax as ‘Misery Tax’.
We then looked for relevant news articles regarding this and found the related information. Reportedly, in 2011, the then Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee proposed to levy a service tax of 5% on the healthcare services provided by hospitals with 25 or more beds with central air conditioning facilities. This proposal received a negative response from the healthcare industry. Opposing this Service Tax, Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, chairman of Narayana Hrudayalaya, wrote an open letter (here and here) calling it a ‘Misery tax‘.
Deccan Herald reported that he met Pranab Mukherjee and asked him to withdraw the proposed bill.
Later, the bill was rolled back (here and here), to which Dr. Shetty responded to it by saying “I am happy that the finance minister has decided to roll back the service tax. I met the FM two weeks ago and at that time he was of the view that the tax would hurt the common man and he would like to do something about it.”
In the 2023-2024 Union Budget presented by Union Minister Nirmala Sitaraman on 01 February 2023, Service Tax on Healthcare is not included. A copy of the budget document can be seen here. Further, service tax is now subsumed under the GST. Hence, there cannot be imposition of service tax on any service.
To sum it up, the viral post falsely shares an old letter from 2011 as a recent one.